Monday, January 16, 2012

The Way of Not-Knowing

Scott Bradley


I spoke of the way of not-knowing in the previous post, and as things tend to happen, one thing leads to another, one idea to the next. And this mention led me to ask if I have not strayed from the path. What is the way of not-knowing?

One thing it is not, is a means to an end. One does not practice not-knowing in order to know. One does not practice it until one knows. It is not a temporary and mediating condition. No, one practices it because it is an essential fact of one's existence, and that condition does not change.

Another thing it is not, is a partial and compartmentalized attribute of mind. It is not that I do not know certain things, because they are un-knowable, but that nothing can be known. And this permeates all of one's being-in-the-world.

Then what is it? For me, it is the lip of that chasm to which I so often refer, because so many things seem to bring me there. It is to stand utterly naked of every presumed purpose and explanation. It is to be completely unfixed. It is, in effect, to be at the end of one's self. It is to be bare and exposed before the ubiquitous Unknown.

Ultimately, not-knowing is not a critique of the limitations of reason, but a recognition of one's complete and utter un-grounded-ness, one's own innate emptiness.

This chasm is the abyss of 'Tao'. There are but two choices; one either clings to the illusory, or one surrenders into emptiness. Call it surrender. Call it openness. Call it release. Call it freedom. They are all the same. Call it letting go. Call it drifting. Call it wandering. They are the same.

Having established that nothing can be known, let us now affirm all that we do know. Like Zhuangzi on the bridge over the River Hao, we intuitively know the happiness of fish, standing there and watching them play. We know all the delights and sorrows of our being-in-the-world. Yet we know them all as our conditioned experience; we know them only to be as things seem to be. Yet, this suffices to enjoy them all.

We know, too, things beyond knowing. Zhuangzi tells us that when our understanding comes to an end, finds its limits, we are able to understand in an entirely different way. Here, knowing becomes experience beyond articulation, which might best be called no knowing at all. Call it whatever you wish.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, referring to my previous comment on your previous post - you did say it after all.

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